Do You Want to Build Some Standard?

(Editor’s Note: Chris asked this question a couple of weeks ago. Before you ask, yes he sang it just like the girl from Frozen. He has a beautiful singing voice.)

I was never interested in the various formats of Magic or what they meant until about a month ago. One of my favorite Magic streamers pointed me to the Vintage Super League on the Magic Twitch page as his stream ended. Left without any options, I followed the link. Boy, am I glad that I did. I have watched every episode, learned Magic from some of the best players, and even developed a rooting interest. I’m bummed that one of my new favorite players and commentators got bumped for being in last place. This is not about Vintage, though. My article on VSL is here and I might revisit it at the end of the season.

My voyage through the history of Magic continued with the Modern event (I know Chris said that we shouldn’t advertise them until they pay us, but click the link and tell ’em 2 Guys Gaming sent ya. Maybe that will lead to something.) in Baltimore. By this time, I knew more bout the archetypes and strategies of Vintage, but knew nothing about Modern. Once again, that was about to change. One player in the event captured my attention, admiration, and imagination with his deck. That story is told here.

Of these two formats, I liked Modern the most. While it can be fun to watch the turn one and two kills in Vintage and watch how some of the most powerful cards in the history of the game interact in the hands of the best players, at times it can be anticlimactic. Because those enablers aren’t available in Modern, the games are generally more interactive. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Modern events shown, so I just watched the Vintage Super League every week and hoped to find a random streamer playing Modern.

I avoided Standard for one main reason. I heard that Standard consisted of mainly the same decks with little to no variation. Having only watched Hearthstone in a competitive setting, this worried me. Because Hearthstone has such a limited pool of cards, the competitive scene is literally the same few decks played all the time. Because Hearthstone is free to play and online, I then see those decks from many of the players that I meet in game. It’s boring and tedious. Competitive Magic doesn’t suffer that problem. Since there are so many more cards, the same archetype will look diverse from player to player. Larger decks also increase variance and the same deck plays differently in each game.

I finally tuned in for Standard one weekend during a Star City Games broadcast. They advertised the event during the Modern one. I noticed that it was in Miami, winter still raged here in Massachusetts, and I wanted to live vicariously through all the lucky warm people in Florida. I never expected that I would experience the insanity depicted in the picture below.


I absolutely loved it. Sometimes it is fun to try to break this game that we love. It’s what I’m attempting to do with every deck that I build. I’m never this successful but that is why I’m where I am and they were all in Miami on that cold weekend.

Clearly, Standard is more than just a gimmicky life gain deck. It’s about the skill and the intrigue, the perceived heroes and villains, the wonder and promise of a new set. Dan Lebatard is fond of saying that sports are soap operas for men. I no longer care about sports the way that I once did, but video and card games have taken their place. Hell, watching streams are much more fun than watching sports because even if the game or match isn’t interesting, you can bet that chat will be.

From pointing out incorrect missed lethal to upholding the virtues of proper land placement and pace of play, Twitch chat rarely fails to entertain. The only thing that I don’t like and can’t understand is the persistent spam for no reason. I know that I sound like an old man. In this instance, I’m proud of my old man-ness and defend it against the unwashed spamming masses. I go to Twitch to learn (no kap) and the spam makes learning and conversation impossible. Wow, that digression…but watch me bring it all back. That’s one of the reason I only watch Magic streams now. The spam does not exist, questions can be answered, and intelligent discussions are the rule rather than the exception. The chat for Star City Games hovers just on the edge between spam and productive, but their coverage is top notch. Their announcers know a lot about Magic, are passionate about the game, and are entertaining. Since discovering their stream, I have not missed and event and I am even planning to go to Rhode Island to see one live.

So, when Chris suggested that we build a couple of decks that will conform to the standard rules, I agreed to the idea without hesitation. We normally play Legacy (a format that I mistakenly thought was just a different name for Vintage) and have all of the cards from the history of Magic at our disposal. We are obviously limited by cost and availability, but not much else. We have built some fun, and even powerful, decks that you can find by following the “decks lists” link in the menu on the left.

My most recent entry into that category is my first attempt at a standard deck. I am also working on a 4-color deck as my other deck. I doubt that I will be able to afford all the cards, but I have been playtesting it and it is fun, so I might proxy the cards to see how it plays in live competition. As we all know, that can often turn out counter to expectations.

Since I can’t build that deck now (or maybe ever) unless I use proxies, I tweaked my Abzan list to make it standard legal. In keeping with my love of sometimes overlooked mechanics and +1/+1 counters, I tried to make a deck with Outlast and a little bit of Bolster strategy. Chris went Jeskai Heroic, so I answered with Abzan Outlast. I can’t wait to see the match with all the counters flying around. Stay tuned to the page for the aftermath.

Well, that’s the story of how I’ve gone from resurrected Magic neophyte to building and practicing in all formats, even if only virtually in the case of modern and vintage…so far. I bet that many of you have a similar story to tell. Maybe you have the money to actually play in Modern. Who knows? Maybe if I get another summer class, then I will look into getting some cards to put together a starter Modern deck and join an event or two. Hope to see you. If not, tell me about your favorite format or deck in the comments.

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